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War on Cash : Getting Rid Of Pocket Money | Chapter 6 of The Great Rewrite

 Canada has been a world leader in getting rid of pocket money. The Royal Canadian Mint eliminated $1 and $2 bills and has stopped making pennies. Now the nation is going digital with a system that — if it spreads around the world — could rewrite what we think of as cash. Canada’s mint in 2012 created a legal, digital version of Canadian money called MintChip. In early 2016 the government sold the technology to nanoPay, a Toronto-based company that has begun to roll it out for use. Using a phone app, residents can transfer money from their bank accounts into a “digital asset store” in the cloud, protected by the same kind of encryption hardware that banks use. “I think the average load is just over $60. I always do $50 at a time,” said Laurence Cooke, CEO and founder of nanoPay. That’s truly digital pocket money. People can exchange Canadian money by swiping their phone screens. And in a limited rollout in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighborhood, users can pay for goods and services in restaurants, bars, a bakery, a hardware store and a florist. In a restaurant, multiple diners can split a bill using their phones — and make sure the waiter receives his tip in his own MintChip account immediately, as if it’s cash. Diners can even pay the bill without waiting for the waitperson to bring it to the table. A big part of nanoPay’s pitch is to retailers, trumpeting the advantage over accepting credit cards. Other phone-based payment systems, such as Apple Pay, are tied to credit or debit cards. Merchants typically take days to receive funds from credit purchases. There are transaction fees, and for the merchant there’s a chance that a card is stolen or a transaction may be disputed and reversed. “The MintChip platform moves value from one entity to another in real time, without settlement and without an intermediary,” Cooke said. “We can do a transaction cheaper and faster and more securely than any other platform on the planet.” Merchants get the immediacy of cash combined with the ability to track customer “loyalty” that a digital transaction provides. That’s different from the anonymity that a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin was created to offer. But as a pioneering regulator-friendly digital cash platform, MintChip and the projects it inspires are likely to have their own impact on rewriting money.

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